DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The president of Toyota Racing Development said Saturday night that the manufacturer is “still in the mix” with Kyle Busch, who has yet to announce where he’ll drive in 2023.
Busch’s contract expires after this season. Joe Gibbs Racing has not been able to sign him to an extension because it does not have a primary sponsor for most, if not all, of next season for the No. 18 team. Mars Inc., announced in December that it would not remain with the team or in NASCAR after this season.
Joe Gibbs Racing had a potential deal in place with a sponsor until that fell through earlier this year, putting Busch’s status with the team in jeopardy.
Busch has said he’s had conversations with other teams. Busch said Saturday afternoon he had no announcement to make.
David Wilson, president of Toyota Racing Development, told reporters Saturday night that the manufacturer is doing what it can. Busch has been with Toyota since joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008.
“Within the reasonable bounds of a manufacturer in the sport, we are doing what we can to try to keep Kyle in our family,” Wilson said. “This is not just an offensive consideration. I don’t want to race against a pissed off Kyle Busch. Whenever he lands he’s going to do some damage. As I’ve said before … it’s been a lot of heavy lifting and that hasn’t changed.”
Wilson called the situation with Busch “very dynamic.
“Each couple of days bring a new twist, a potential new opportunity. We run these down to the ground and, hopefully, one of these irons will catch, and, hopefully, one of these will manifest themselves.
“I have no doubt that Kyle Busch will be driving a Cup car next year. The question is where and for whom.”
Asked why doesn’t Toyota just pay what is needed to fund the No. 18 car to keep Busch, the only active two-time Cup champion, Wilson said: “We have a role to play in this sport. From the time we came in here … we have respected this sport and we respected the position and the responsibility that we have in the sport and it is not a responsibility where we are puppeteers and own drivers and racing teams.
“Joe Gibbs Racing has a contract with the driver. We do relationships with every one of our drivers. It’s called a personal services agreement. That is because they are all ambassadors for us. It is not our role as a manufacturer to backstop, that’s not what we do.”
#NASCAR … @DavidWilsonTRD, President of Toyota Racing Development, says of contract situation with Kyle Busch: “We’re doing what we can to try to keep Kyle in our family.” More of what David said … pic.twitter.com/AdnrYGMWWI
— Dustin Long (@dustinlong) August 27, 2022
Another element with Busch is his Camping World Truck Series team, Kyle Busch Motorsports. That organization provides opportunities for development drivers in the Toyota pipeline.
Wilson said “our plan is KBM going forward because Kyle is in a Toyota. Certainly the good news is we have other relationships in the garage, obviously, in the Truck Series. We’re fortunate to have almost an embarrassment of riches in the Truck Series. If circumstances are such that KBM is not running Toyota, we’ll be OK, and we’re confident that we can take care of our young drivers.”
Ty Gibbs is presumed to be the driver who would replace Busch in the No. 18 should Busch leave.
Gibbs will be making his sixth consecutive Cup start Sunday at Daytona International Speedway (10 a.m. ET on CNBC and Peacock) in place of the injured Kurt Busch. That track time has given Gibbs valuable experience should the 19-year-old move to Cup next year.
“We’ve been amazed at how quickly Ty Gibbs has adapted to this new car,” Wilson said. “Not that any of us had any doubts, but it certainly has given us a level of comfort that if and when an opportunity for Ty comes along to put him in a Cup car, he’s going to kill it. He’s going to kill it.”
Wilson said Gibbs “is going to be a big player in Toyota’s NASCAR Cup history, whether that is next year or the year after, it will happen when it’s meant to happen.”